The Musical History Event Tragic-Dramedy
(not to be confused with 'The View Upstairs' or 'The Boys Upstairs' or 'Upstairs Upstairs with Views of Boys' which may or may not exist)
Pride Arts Theater, CHICAGO - The red door opened unleashing a plume of white smoke directly at
Wayne Kupferer's chest, while fog danced and lapped at his feet.
“Just like that. You have to hold the smaller fog machine level if you want it to really blast.” I said turning to our production assistant Rico.
Upstairs the Musical was just days from opening and we had to get the backdraft effect just right. After all, the play is about a gay bar fire in 1973 New Orleans in which 32 people lost their lives. They never caught, nor did the cops try to catch the arsonist.
Throughout this production I’ve alternately felt like both Ship Captain and Oswaldesque Patsy. I reckon it’s on account of this being the first play I didn’t write or take part in writing. Also it’s my first Musical. A Rock Opera , really. Bursting at the seams with 16 songs. Luckily there has been an incredible support staff in place around me; Stage Manager Kirby Gibson, Technical Director Wayne Kupferer, Choreographer Joshua Heinlein, a savvy Producer/Set Designer/Costume Getter Gary Trick, and Byron Allen; an ex Circus performer who traveled with Barnum and Bailey Circus. Even got Dan McKearnan of Bloody Haymarket fame out of retirement for this one. Dan’s the dude who used to smack the lighting console at the Irish American Heritage Center to get the Leko stage lamps to come on.
I remember sitting with Nick Arceo, who plays George the piano player and devising what needed to be judicially cut. The songs were all too long and the last three songs in a row seemed a slow drag to the finish line. Speed up the tempo I knew, but other words like vamp and Libretto were picked up along the way.
We had been fighting a running war since the beginning of this thing, like Native-American taking pot shots at the U.S. Calvary from trees. We had had a devil of a time getting Upstairs fully cast, Wayne Self’s hastily assembled script was the hybrid of 2 previous versions, and we lost the LED lights for 2 days in TECH WEEK until Manny found the wire hanging from the grid. And having a Theater Manager, David ‘slumlord’ Zak, working against us didn’t help the situation.
Opening night came, the house more than half full, and the show went off better than any of us expected. The thought was murmured that we might have a hit play on our hands. A big play about big people. Titans really, who refused to live in fear. Here is Buddy the bartender with his boyfriend Adam.
Then came the cynics, the loveless, the doomed.
Two sour grapes tried to derail our play and murder the Upstairs Lounge’s victims a second time, in addition to massacring 8 actors, 4 musicians, and 5 crew members in the process.
But then again, what do the critics know...
So here we stand on a precipice of mixed reviews and lack-luster ticket sales and the show is supposed to run until November 26th . You want a call to action? Here it is; come see the show. Show plays at 4139 N. Broadway, Friday & Saturday at 7:30, Sunday matinee at 2pm. Tell your friends to see the show. Even tell your grandma to see the show (there’s one simulated blowjob scene but I’m pretty sure she can handle it).
This is do or die, folks.
And I swear to god, if my worst ideas come true, then the next play will be about a critic. A nasty little fucker who, with a few glib paragraphs, destroys a production; months and months of hard work. To wipe away all the blood, sweat, and tears with a couple strokes of a keyboard. In a fit of Jealousy and sexually repression. In the final scene the destitute Director, with his last few dollars, buys a gallon of gasoline, finds where this custodian of culture lives, and burns the shit-heads house to the ground. Then launches a Broadway hit based on the story. Because, the story behind the story is always more interesting than the story.
All Legs to be Broken.
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